ARA Antibodies for Research Applications

ARA: Agents for Research translated to Clinical Application

History of ARA

The company Antibodies for Research Applications BV (ARA) was founded in May 2000 by Dr. Peter J.K. Kuppen en Dr. Arko Gorter. In 2003 Mr. Rob Spaan joined the company as financial executive officer. The founders are scientists at the Leiden University Medical Center (LUMC). The original aim of the company was to retail monoclonal antibodies in license. Apart from applications in the research, antibodies proved to be useful for clinical applications, both as diagnostic tools and as clinical agents. In 2009 the company further broadened its activities and participates in an intra-operative Multi-Spectral Imaging Systems for Radical Tumor Resection (MUSIS) consortium to explore the usefulness of antibodies (and other agents) for Image-Guided Surgery. To fund this activity a grand was submitted to the Center for Translational Molecular Medicine (CTMM). The grand was approved in 2009.


The CTMM (Center for Translational Molecular Medicine, is a Dutch public-private cooperation initiative, founded by the Dutch government in 2006. CTMM aims to promote technological developments in molecular medicine, focused on early diagnostics and personalized medicine of oncological, cardiovascular and neurodegenerative disorders and infection/auto-immune diseases. These four types of disorders represent the most prominent causes of mortality and reduced quality of live in the Western world. To fund CTMM projects the Dutch government contributes 50% of the costs, the other 50% of the costs is contributed by academic research institutes and industry (each 25%).

Intra-operative Multi-Spectral Imaging Systems for Radical Tumor Resection project

One of the CTMM-projects that started in January 2010, is the Intra-operative Multi-Spectral Imaging Systems for Radical Tumor Resection (MUSIS) project ( The aim of the MUSIS project is to improve surgical treatment of cancer patients. In approximately 25% of the cases, surgical tumor resection is incomplete, resulting in tumor-positive resection margins. In these cases an additional operation or intensive additional therapy such as radiotherapy or chemotherapy is indicated. The goal of the MUSIS is to improve tumor resection by visualizing the tumor during the operation. This is achieved by attaching a fluorescent marker to the tumor cells. Although the fluorescence by itself is invisible for the surgeon a specialized camera system detects the fluorescence and converts it into a visible image of on screen. Based on this image the surgeon is able to exactly locate the tumor mass and thus determine much more accurate the resection margins. All necessary expertises are combined in a MUSIS consortium, generating optimal synergy to realize the set targets. The expertises encompasses amongst others the generation of tumor specific agents coupled to fluorochromes, a specialized camera system that detects and converts fluorescent light and an academic environment that facilitates pre-clinical and clinical testing of the developed reagents, equipment and methods.

The MUSIS-consortium

ARA is one of the main partners in the MUSIS consortium. ARA is accountable for the development of tumor targeting agents (such as monoclonal antibodies) to which fluorescent probes (fluorochromes) can be attached. The other partners are: DEAM BV (endoscopic equipment); Luminostox BV (optical systems); O2View BV (camera system); Percuros BV (basal biotechnologies) and Westburg BV (fluorochromes). De academic partners are: Erasmus Medical Center, Leiden University Medical Center, Dutch Cancer Institute and the Technical University Delft. This consortium contains all the necessary expertises to allow both fundamental research to select the appropriate agents and to allow clinical introduction of the selected agents.

Breast cancer and colon cancer

Both breast and colon cancer have a high prevalence in the Netherlands and the rest of the Western world. In the Netherlands approximately 15.000 new cases of breast cancer and approximately 12.000 new cases of colon cancer are detected each year. The mortality of breast cancer and colon cancer is respectively approximately 3500 and 5000 cases each year. Due to the high prevalence and considerable mortality of these tumor types the primary focus of the MUSIS project is on breast and colon cancer. In early stages surgical treatment is one of the most effective treatment options for breast and colon cancer, however in approximately 25% of the cases surgical treatment, due to incomplete tumor resection, is not curative. This requires extra medical care (chemotherapy or radiotherapy or a combination of both) and results in a poorer clinical prognosis for the patient. Image-guided surgery, allowing a more efficient removal of the tumor, could significantly improve surgical treatment of cancer and result in a substantial reduction of after-treatment medical costs.